The Chicala Observatory

The Chicala Observatory is an archive of the history and urban culture of Chicala, an informal neighbourhood in the centre of Luanda, Angola. It is the result of collaboration between the Department of Architecture at the Universidade Agostinho Neto (UAN) and The Cass School of Architecture, London Metropolitan University.

The project takes the form of various open access components, which complement one another: a physical archive, an interactive website ( and public presentations (lectures, exhibitions, publications).

The aim of the study is to present the urban and social character of an area of Luanda which is gradually disappearing, and about which there is still a widespread lack of knowledge. The research also seeks to understand the nature of the neighbourhood’s reciprocal relationship with the city as a whole. The project contributes to highlighting the proactive role that architects and the academic community can play in the context of rapid transformation in Luanda.

The Observatory has fomented civic responsibility and social solidarity among participants (students, residents and professionals/organisations both within and beyond the neighbourhood). It adopts a different approach to that of most recent work on the history and urban development of Luanda with regard to both the characteristics of the study site and the methodology employed. The project brings together architectural research practices (including technical representation of architectural and urban forms) and social science techniques (using surveys and participatory methods).

The Chicala Observatory has contributed to increasing the inclusion of informal neighbourhoods in the teaching and professional practice of architecture. It has also helped to encourage public debate on the place of informality in Luanda’s urban order.

Some of the primary spatial and social characteristics of the Chicala neighbourhood recorded in this study have already vanished, due to the ongoing urban transformation process. The Chicala Observatory, hence, contributes to strengthening and consolidating the collective memory of the city of Luanda.